Empower women. Eliminate poverty.


The Women Who Helped Rebuild After Hurricane Mitch

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Ixchel Trust Bank

Location: Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Sololá, Guatemala
Loan Cycles:  16
Members:  7
Average age of members:  35 years
Average school level of members: 2.4 years
Average loan size: US $439

Seven ladies, most of whom have not attended school, compose the Trust Bank called Ixchel.  Sixteen loan cycles prove their great desire to excel as they go about their daily round in Nueva Catarina Ixtahuacan, one of the coldest parts of Guatemala.

Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan is a relatively new village.  It was formed in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch destroyed 60%of the village of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan.  The residents decided to establish a new village on higher ground which now has a population of around 4,000 people.  It is known for its Mayan culture: they speak the K’iche language, and weave in the Mayan tradition using a back-strap loom.  Therefore the vast majority of the ladies of Ixchel Trust Bank are artisans, producing textiles (the “tipica” common in Guatemala).

Like all Friendship Bridge Trust Banks, this group has its own officers.  Their current President is Maria Tambriz Panquim (pictured above, second from the left).  At 55, she is one of the founding members.  She offers her kitchen every month so the group can meet together to make their loan payments and get training on different topics including children’s education, women’s rights, health, hygiene, business administration, etc.  This month the topic is Budget Management.  The women learn to prioritize the expenses of their families and their businesses, using the case of a member of the group.  “The trainings have been very useful in my own life since I never went to school.  I understood its importance, and have passed along what I’ve learned to all my children.  Friendship Bridge emphasizes this consistently,” says Maria Tambriz.

The women say they enjoy the Trust Bank meetings because of the treatment they receive and the opportunity to share with one another.  They are given the power to choose for themselves and the freedom to express themselves during group meetings.  In the words of one member, they feel “important and empowered”.  As a result, their businesses and families have benefited from their rise in self-confidence and determination.  Some businesses have been sources of employment in the community — María Tambriz and Catarina Xocol have employed two and one person respectively.  Another member, Juana Venancia Juana (pictured above, third from the left) enlists the help of her younger sister with her business.  She is 19 years old and the youngest of the group.  This is her first loan cycle and she is using the funds to make typical skirts called cortes.  The revenue she earns will help support her family and also allow her to contribute to her own school expenses.  She is a senior in high school and very excited about the prospect of receiving a certificate in Accounting at the end of this year.

Thank you to the Westminster 7:10 Rotary Club and all other participating clubs for this grant.